Where should I go to study nanotechnology?

The following is a message from my sponsor… or at least, the institution that pays my salary…

What advice should one give to young people who wish to make a career in nanotechnology? It’s a very technical subject, so you won’t generally get very far without a good degree level grounding in the basic, underlying science and technology. There are some places where one can study for a first degree in nanotechnology, but in my opinion it’s better to obtain a good first degree in one of the basic disciplines – whether a pure science, like physics or chemistry, or an engineering specialism, like electronic engineering or materials science. Then one can broaden one’s education at the postgraduate level, to get the essential interdisciplinary skills that are vital to make progress in nanotechnology. Finally, of course, one usually needs the hands-on experience of research that most people obtain through the apprenticeship of a PhD.

In the UK, the first comprehensive, Masters-level course in Nanoscale Science and Technology was developed jointly by the Universities of Leeds and Sheffield (I was one of the founders of the course). As the subject has developed and the course has flourished, it has been expanded to offer a range of different options – the Nanotechnology Education Portfolio – nanofolio. Currently, we offer MSc courses in Nanoscale Science and Technology (the original, covering the whole gamut of nanotechnology from the soft to the hard), Nanoelectronics and nanomechanics, Nanomaterials for nanoengineering and Bionanotechnology.

The course website also has a general section of resources that we hope will be useful to anybody interested in nanotechnology, beginning with the all-important question “What is nanotechnology?” Many more resources, including images and videos, will be added to the site over the coming months.

22 thoughts on “Where should I go to study nanotechnology?”

  1. I’m 17 and am interested in a career in nanotechnology, bionanotech, or synthetic biology. As you recommend, I am going to get an engineering degree first, and then (depending on what is available) I will head overseas for postgraduate education.

    However I am more interested in business applications further down the track – specifically, entrepreneurial opportunities. Are things too early for this to be viable? If I worked in the field, would most things be research based?

  2. Greetings – Dare I suggest that Dr. Jones has engaged in a bit of Reserved Self Promotion.
    Cheers, this is a very good thing. When we first encountered Richard Jones, it was at the EPSRC ‘Sandpit’ on Nanotechnology, an exercise in cooperative knowledge seeking which motivated my crew to explore.
    The unwavering commitment to advancing knowledge in the field of Nanotechnology by both The Universities of Leeds and Sheffield is to be both lauded and supported. Without knowledge and the dissemination thereof, there can be no advancement and collectively they do it very well.
    This speaks as well to the general commitment of academia within the UK to the necessity of general literacy of the sciences within the country and through the advantage gained by the Highway of Light, beyond.

  3. A quick footnote to the previous Comment. NanoFolio has received a 10/10 on the MNM – WAY COOL Scale. The dedication to advancing the craft is to be lauded and will be at every chance.
    Motivating people to seek knowledge is our task, providing new things to explore is the task assumed be others and NanoFolio does a superb job. Well Done. – Bias, as always, Declared

  4. If I might offer some careers advice. First of all, the great thing about being an entrepreneur is that you can neither be too old nor too young to get started. As for opportunities, I should say that there are already many of these. There are many companies making or starting to make money out of nanotech in wildly different areas, such as photovoltaics or smart wound dressings.

    You find yourself at something of an advantage because you are already thinking about what you want to do. A great many graduates do not know what they want to do and believe me it shows at interview. Do your degree course, then go abroad if that is your dream. I spent two years in France and four years in Germany. It is a life-enhancing experience. Do not feel that you need to be involved in a start up business straight after you have finished your education. There is value in experiencing how things are done elsewhere in industry; you should wait for your opportunity to come.

    To increase your opportunities you need to ensure you have a very broad outlook, so read around science. Because nanotech is highly interdisciplinary, you need to see the opportunity to apply something you learnt in one field to another. As an example, using bacterial photosynthesis for solar cells is not something you would come up with if you read only physics texts. Read Engines of Creation if you have not already done so – its vision of the future from just before you were born is fascinating. (Drexler’s assemblers have been well documented by Richard at many points, but I also found Drexler’s early take on the internet to be fascinating.) If you are doing an engineering degree that has little bio in it, then read books like Soft Machines and David Goodsell’s Bionanotechnology, which is the book I am reading at the moment.

    I am Director of nanofolio, and our team of industrialists who advise us on what they think is necessary from the course portfolio regularly give us advice. Here is something from our representative from ICI about the kind of candidate that they like to employ: “The one we hire is the one who has done a gap year, gone to Bangladesh, and helped build a hospital.” In short, good evidence of drive will help you get a job. It is the same drive that is necessary for those prepared to be involved at the start of a company. I wish I could tell you what it is like, but I have so far had a typically conformist academic career. This does not however mean that I should not pass on the wisdom of others…

    Finally I should wish you very good luck for the future.


  5. I am also interested in a nanotechnology career, specifically digital/logical design at the molecular level and/or molecular assembly concepts. but as of yet have no clue where to start. I’m going for an EE degree (I haven’t started it yet), but I’ve not really had anyone to ask which path to take! Spotting this, I can finally ask:
    Researching is one of my deepest goals/desires, so I would love to see what you think as far as my stepping stones could be towards my goals?

  6. I have a friend who has been in the final year of a Chemical Engineering degree for a few years now. His present problem is that he has taken a course-load that qualifies him for 3 Minor fields of study, but not a Major. Even though he has learned more than a standard Major degree encompasses, he is being penalized for interdisciplinary interests. In this case the world is losing out on two person/yrs of a Chemical Engineer and gaining a retail clerk for a year. Universities have to understand the path of least resistance for innovation nowadays is in combining relatively shallow knowledge bases from tangential fields.
    But more pressing to me is to see portions (that don’t require expensive infrastructures) of University courses accredited and cheaply distributed via correspondence education.

    I suggest Universities also need to offer quicker graduating schemes. I sure wouldn’t want to learn state-of-the-art solid-state hydrogen storage research pathways if I’m not planning on using it until my 8th year of study. Maybe this is the same suggestion as R.Jones’s that students should get grounding in a fundamental field 1st. There are many isolated courses I’d like to take but nothing I’d bet half a decade of my life on. The latter gamble is a University prerequisite.

  7. Lots of good advice from Mark. To Zenith, I would say the most important thing to do if you want to do research is to read as much as you can about what’s going on in the research world, and find the groups who are doing the work in the areas you are interested in. Doing well in your degree is obviously important, but if you have a really good idea about what you want to do, and even more important, who you want to do it with, that will make you stand out from most of the competition.

    I agree with Phillip that it’s important not to spend your time learning stuff in the early part of a long degree program that will be obsolete at the end. I really appreciate my own education, in the (sadly unfashionable) British tradition of very short degrees. My 3 year 1st degree (Natural Sciences at Cambridge) was a brutally intense crash course in thinking like a physicist, heavy on the methods of problem solving and very light on the sort of factual information that rapidly dates. After 3.5 years of PhD I arrived in Cornell as a postdoc who was significantly younger than most of the graduate students; compared to them I felt very undereducated in a formal sense but well equipped in the survival skills of how to find stuff out fast.

  8. As a University of Waterloo student, I can vouch for their undergrad nanotechnology program. (http://www.nanotech.uwaterloo.ca). The first couple years, we learn all the fundamentals (chemistry, material science, quantum), then in 3rd/4th year, we get to choose where we want to specialize (biomatierals, electronics, etc.).

  9. Mark,

    Thank you for the advice, really appreciated. I live in New Zealand, so for me abroad includes the USA.

    I’m looking forward to getting started next year! I’ll continue to read around the area to hopefully form a clearer understanding of everything involved.

    Thanks again.

    Zenith: nice to see someone else in a similar position to me :-).

  10. I am a student at McGill University in my third year of my program. I have known that I wanted to be involved in nanotech in some way or another from the very beginning and ended up pursuing a chemical engineering degree. On top of this I am finishing up my minor in Chemistry. Being (Almost) all said done, I must say I was a little disappointed with the path chemical engineering took me. At least for McGill’s program, it is not nano-oriented at all, and very few options are available. This was the reason for pursuing a minor in chemistry, where I found more of what I have been looking for lately.
    Although I am not in nano yet, I am pretty sure that good advice for anybody looking to get into the field is simply to take the subject which you most like, keep informed of ongoing research, and be very open about any science field. The problem with nano, (at least for an indecisive student) is that the possibilities are almost endless, and you can tackle it from many different angles. I just hope that the “thinking” skills, and the knowledge obtained from my degree with be useful in future research.
    For the students; really check out the courses offered by the university of interest…something I did not do.

  11. It’s interesting to have the front-line perspectives of Mitch and Eric. Good luck to you both.

    My apologies, by the way, for being a bit slow replying and posting in the last couple of weeks. A lot’s been happening, as may become clearer soon.

  12. Hi, I am doing Engineering in Information Technology and I wish to do Masters in Nanotech. But i don’t know the subjects which i’m studying now fullfill the basic requirement required for nanotechnology. Well, the subjects which i’m studying now are based on networking and computer languages. So please guide me.. thanx..!

  13. Varun, exact requirements will depend on the Masters course you have in mind, and many will be reasonably broad-minded, but it would be good, i suspect, to do any options available to you on the hardware and semiconductor physics side of things.

  14. Hi Mr Jones

    I would like to know if a nanotech course,is available for MARKETING GUYS

    Sooner ot later,nanotech will be part of the marketing divisions,and forecast Sales,plus Businesses plans in regards to nano-products will be demanded .

    You know,US companies will sell distribution rights to companies in certain territories,like US,Central America,MExico,South America,Africa,Asia,
    Europe-EC and Middle East countries,and a lot of LEGAL MATTERS will
    arise as well as Marketing issues.

    Sure nanotech will born products that will need to be “mesured” before
    signing any distribution deal ,contract or amendment,so some kind of
    “break even” calculations must be done.

    And this is where MArketing guys enter the world of “nano”

    The massive use of a tech converted in a huge business thru a simple product

    Communications,video,theatrical,cell phones,cable,satellite TV,
    new raw material or cambination of mats research,medicine, aviation,boats, cars,gas and oil issues, computing software and hardware,etc ,etc

    I am a Marketing Guy,I am interested in what the nano tech does,or can do, rather than “What the nano tech is” … ok ?

    Of course I am interested in what the nano is,but must important thing,is what you can do with it.

    So, where I can go to learn about this ? and if a Course FOR MARKETING PEOPLE plus certificate is available ?

    May be we can build a course with a little bit of chemistry,physics,design,
    computing,applicable software,etc etc

    Kind Regards
    Alex Piacentini

  15. Alex, it might be worth contacting the Institute of Nanotechnology, as I think they are doing a good job of keeping track of what nanotechnology courses are being offered at the moment.

  16. hey i really want to doing nanotech and plan on joining the university of auckland next year but im not sure if choosing mechatronics in my 2nd year is a good idea… would elecrtical or IT be better?

  17. Without knowing the details of the courses it’s difficult to be sure, but I’d suggest electrical may have more about micro and nano-fabrication techniques.

  18. I am interested in Studying the Electrical and Magnetic Behavoiur of matter wat discipline in NanoTechnology actually deals with that

  19. I am presently doing Computer Engineering and i am interested in nanotechnology but as i have no guidance and dont know how to and from where to startup with. what will be the basic requirements for nanotechnology and i am interested in the computer courses of six months which can be useful in nanotechnology please help me.

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